not swearing

You Just Don't Want to Live Next Door to One: The Attack

It goes like this.

For an assignment - my Story Structure class, which is all about story structure - we had to write about a dramatic scene with a cliffhanger ending, something like the mid-second-act low point in terms of a traditional narrative structure. I'd been stuck on Parker and Raif for a while at that point, and I thought writing the next scene as an assignment might help me figure it out. It did: Parker wouldn't have gotten in the car with Raif. Making him get in the car rendered the next scene utterly unwritable from both a characterisation standpoint (Parker being an anxious, mule-ish so-and-so for good reason) and a practicality standpoint (the end point I needed to reach was all but impossible). So I wrote the scene as though Raif just told Parker about the break-in and tried to get Parker to drive off with him, submitted the assignment and got 100%.

(For workshopping I had to read out my chapter to my workshop group. I was made to go first because everybody else chickened out. It was a mildly traumatic experience.)

So I have been, for a while, sitting on one latest chapter of a story I may or may not ever finish.

My current novel wasn't planned: it was one of those 'meant to be a short story and whoops, now it's a novel' ventures. Because of that, it required massive redrafting (the whole thing was rewritten, from scratch, three times: there is not a single sentence, over 140 000 words, that made it from first draft to third) to get the plot in order. I had the same experience with Asylum. Its sequel, Sanctuary, has a plan, and I am planning the second book in my trilogy. Were I to rewrite or keep writing Parker and Raif, I would have a fucking plan precisely to avoid these kinds of mistakes ... or the massive time-waste that happens when one redafts three times to figure out the plot.

(I'm never going to be a plot-heavy writer, but these days I'm better at writing scenes/chapters that mostly relate to the plot as opposed to being humorous digressions.)

So while this makes me an absolute tease, I thought I'd post this just so as to do something with it. I don't actually expect anyone to read it; I just wanted to post it somewhere. (Maybe I'll write out that fucking plan someday. Maybe I'll just write rough chapters and post them here for the heck of writing without redrafting three times, because I miss that, a little. Maybe...)

Title: The Attack
Series: You Just Don't Want to Live Next Door to One
Genre: paranormal queer romance
Content: violence, fighting, blood loss, Raif being an arse, Raif being an absolute arse, Raif not thinking shit through
Length: 3058 words
Summary: When his neighbour invades his workplace using the old romantic ploy to drag him out into the car park, Parker thinks he's justly owed an explanation. Raif, on the other hand, seems to have a mortal phobia of actually making sense...

Link to the old entries. My eye twitches a little at the comma faults and use of speech tags.

AN: What's never explicitly said until later is that Parker's house is trashed so that the assassin will follow Raif to the library, and then follow them both until he finds an opportunistic moment.





Parker drew in a long, shaking breath, trying to calm the quiver in his hands for long enough to figure out what to do next. Not go with Raif, obviously—at least not until the arsehole bothered to answer a few more questions. How could he come in with a few photos and expect Parker to follow him to wherever just because, with no more real evidence than a bloodied bookmark?

The breathing didn't help him, so he took a few steps away from Raif's hatchback—he made sure there was nothing close enough to be pinned against—and then folded his arms, trying not to think about how he probably resembled his mother in a snit.

It took Raif a moment to realise that Parker wasn't headed to the passenger door; he stopped, turned, and slammed the door shut. "Parker."

"You think I can be bribed?" Parker jammed his shaking fingers further up his armpits. Raif must hear his heartbeat increase, but there was no way Parker would follow him into his car. "I'm not leaving until you explain what's going on. Now."

He didn't know why Raif took a deep, sudden breath. The yellow street lights did very little to soften the sickly grey cast of his skin. His lips, already bloodless, were nothing but thin, pale lines. "I told you. There are people after you, after us. It's not safe."

"Why isn't it safe? Who are these people? Why have I been dragged into this? Your dark and mysterious man-in-a-coat act doesn't cut it!" Parker took a few steps backwards out into the centre lane of the car park, widening the space between them. A quick glance to the library window showed him that the watchers had gone back to borrowing books, which was just as well. The last thing Parker needed was Georgina's witnessing the argument.

"Quiet down!" Raif hissed. "People are going to hear you."

Indeed, a few shadowy figures had stopped by the entrance to the library; someone else hovered by a car, poking at the rear tyres.

"So? If they know that you're a—"

"Parker!"

"What?"

Raif stopped and held his hands out. His voice, once so suave, was now just pissed-off and short. Parker rather liked the change. "Stop. Just stop." He drew in another breath, and Parker wondered if he used it as a deliberate delay tactic. "Okay. We'll talk. If you just get in the car, I’ll explain. But not out here."

Parker shook his head. Get in the car, where Raif could lock the doors and drive him to Sydney? "No fucking way. You tell me what's going on and then I decide. I don't get in and have you deciding for me, again."

Raif's lips twisted into a menacing snarl.

This time the expression didn't seem to have any compulsive effect, perhaps because Parker had spent far too long living on the peak of anxiety to care about the sudden surge of fear. Parker just swallowed, pressed his arms tighter to his chest and took a deliberate step backwards. "You tell me what's going on, or I'm going back in there. I wonder what Georgina and Alice will think when I tell them that—"

"Fine!"

Parker stared at him in surprise. Since when did Raif surrender to Parker's demands? Hell, that would be acknowledging that Parker's demands existed, and when did he ever do that?

"We'll talk.” Raif’s eyes flickered around the car park. "Not here. People are a bit too interested around here."

Parker nodded. He didn't think Raif would cross the line so far as to grab him and carry him to the car: a conversation should be safe as long as he didn't let Raif get close enough to be seductive. Truly, Raif wasn’t anything even in the ballpark of hot, not even when he had been drinking, so why did he have such an effect on Parker? "There's the park around the corner."

"Fine. Lead the way."

He heard the loud click as Raif locked the hatchback, but Parker didn't look back to see if he followed. He just walked down the driveway, looking away from the man now checking the air in his front tyres. Fuck. Parker's friends were all shameless eavesdropping bastards, but shouldn't strangers know better than to be so obvious about it?

"I wouldn't be doing this if it weren't important, Parker."

Parker jerked as Raif reached forward and grasped his elbow. "Don't."

"What"

"You're," Parker looked up and down the street and then lowered his voice just in case, "dead. You lied to me. You stole my house key. You're only pretending to be my neighbour. You pretended to date me, lied to my friends and pinned me against your car. That's fucking assault!" He took another step to the side; Raif let his hand drop away. "And then the garden gnomes! The break-in! So no, you don't get to touch me. Why would you even think…?"

Raif at least had the decency to keep his silence.

Parker wrapped his arms around his chest and stared straight ahead, stalking down the ill-lit path from the road to the centre of the park. Had he been alone, Parker wouldn't have dared the park at night, but having a vampire as a neighbour had to be good for something, and no-one was around save for one flitting shadow crossing past the entrance to the performing arts centre. Parker headed straight for a bench by the rotunda and sat down, staring out at the closest tree. The air was cool and crisp; he rubbed his hands down his forearms. He should have been inside, behind his desk, at work, worrying about nothing more than people trying to view porn on the library computers. Not out here in the dark with a vampire—a fucking vampire—who had shown him photos of his messed-up, broken-in house!

Raif sat down beside him. "Are you going to listen if I do explain?"

"Don't you fucking make this about me!"

Silence. Parker dug a hole in the gravelled path with his shoe.

Raif sighed. "I didn't mean it. It all just … happened."

Didn't he get it? Parker didn't want his bullshit apologies for everything that had gone wrong since Raif had moved in next-door. He wanted answers. "This is explaining how?"

Raif made a small hiss that might have been a sigh or a snarl. "I was hiding. Under cover."

"Well, duh! Letting us think you're a terminal cancer patient instead of a bloodsucker—yes, that's being open and honest!"

"No, not—I mean for us. We have communities, contacts, jobs. We're used to that kind of hiding. I would've stayed in Sydney, but I was hiding away from us. My handlers thought it would be best for everyone if I—" He paused, twisted around, stared out into the trees bordering the park. "We should go back to the car."

No. For the first time in Parker’s life, he didn’t argue the point. He just stood up and stalked off down the path. The gravel crunched under his heels; he wished it were Raif’s face. Fuck the bastard. Raif was never going to stop manipulating and avoiding, so why should Parker put up with him? Why bother arguing? He would do what he should've done in the first place: ring the police, report the break-in, change the locks on his door, crash on Alice's couch for a few nights.

If Raif wanted to flee the city, let him!

"Parker!"

Parker broke into a jog. He couldn't explain Raif's being a vampire—everyone thought Parker enough of a headcase as it was—but if he said that Raif had stalked and assaulted him, maybe Alice and Georgina would understand. He'd be allowed to be a bit crazy, then. Alice wouldn't tease him about hiding behind the returns desk anymore. He could go back to his old life, a life without gnomes and vampires and bullshit—

Hands grabbed him by the shoulders and yanked him up against something hard—a bony man's chest, he realised a moment too late.

Parker flailed, fumbled, yelled and earned a punch to the face that set his head rocking amidst an explosion of pain that raced down his left cheekbone and ear. Things felt odd and disjointed after that, almost unreal: nothing should be more compelling than his attacker, and yet Parker couldn’t think through the strange, nauseating dizziness. He grabbed at the arm holding him pinned, but his hands slipped off his jacket sleeve. He kicked out at the man's kneecaps, but the man—vampire, his brain realised well after it was too late to matter—didn't even stumble. Parker drew in a breath to let out a shriek, but the man clapped another hand over Parker's mouth, and Parker got a whiff of blood-tainted, salty Brut as the vampire jerked Parker’s head against his chest.

Fuck. His father splashed that shit on like it was cheaper than water, so much so that Parker couldn’t even think about him without recalling the smell. Was he going to turn up for holidays and be forever reminded of the time he'd been jumped by a vampire in the park? Because sure, Parker wasn’t thought anxious enough already!

"Stop!"

Something crashed into both Parker and the vampire, shoving them both into the ground. Parker kicked out and dug his fingernails into the man's arms, and this time one arm moved enough for him to duck underneath and crawl away from the tangle of bodies. Someone grabbed at his ankle; Parker kicked his foot free and scrabbled his way across the grass before stopping to look.

Bits and pieces of the two wrestling figures fell into the glow cast by the weak streetlight as they fought—there a boot, there a glimpse of long back coat, there the glittery sheen of a knife, there a finger gouging at an eye. Parker found himself gaping as Raif flung himself back onto the other vampire, pinning him to the ground: Hollywood had never portrayed a vampire fight as a rolling scuffle in the grass where one man lay on top of the other with his limbs flailing out like a starfish.

Did Raif have any idea what he was doing? Could he stop the other vampire?

Realisation hit. Parker scrambled a few paces further away from the tableau and pushed himself up onto his feet, struggling against a wave of nausea and the inability to remember what the fuck he'd done with his phone. He patted his trouser pockets and found nothing but his keys. No. Where…?

One vampire groaned before the attacker flipped Raif over with a sharp, sickening crack that sounded like what Parker imagined to be a spine breaking.

Forget the phone. Forget Raif. Parker bolted. It was only then he remembered that he wasn't far away from the library. He was going to be okay. All he had to do was get to the car park or the main road and scream his head off, and someone would help. Just hit the road where it was more than light enough for passing traffic to see the scuffle. A few metres ahead at most. He could see the traffic lights casting their strange, bright-yet-colourless hue by the main entranceway.

"Help! Help me! Someone's! Hel—"

The vampire crashed into Parker's back and shoved him to the ground, rugby style.

Parker hadn't even wanted to play cricket in school.

He landed pinned between grass and vampire, the lawn cold and wet against his face; he gasped uselessly for breath through a mouth of dirt and a set of seized-up lungs that didn't want to work.

The vampire picked himself up as if the fall were nothing, grabbed Parker by the back of his shirt and hauled him upright. Parker swang in mid-air, still gasping, before the vampire let go; he hit the ground again, this time landing face-up with a stabbing, twisting pain in his left knee and a crushing pain across his ribcage. He reached out with one hand even as a strange voice in the back of his still-aching head screamed that it would be useless, even as the rest of him cared only for the fact he could not get a breath, but the vampire grabbed Parker's wrists and held them pinned over his head with one hand.

Parker had just enough light to see him reach into his jacket pocket and pull out the knife.

It wasn't even that big, one of those little retractable pocket-knifes that were illegal to carry in public but not all that dangerous. A box cutter. Five for two dollars at the local discount shop. Not a weapon at all.

Parker couldn't move away; he couldn't move his lungs.

How long could a person last before dying of not breathing?

"If you don't want to die, hold still."

A sharp stabbing pain cut down his left arm—no, it was more like the knock-an-elbow-against-a-table agony, too much to bear. Unlike an elbow, it didn't go away after a moment and Parker couldn't find the breath to scream. He could imagine it well enough, in the same way he could imagine a syringe injecting something into his body while being too chicken to actually watch the flu shot: it felt like a gash slicing down the inside of his arm with the blade sunk into his wrist. A butterfly pinned to a board. He couldn't even feel the blood much, couldn’t feel anything but the pain and the strange breathless pants he made in an attempt to cry out, but he could imagine it welling up in thick streams, dripping down his hand and over his fingers.

The vampire must be like Raif, must have had his fangs removed in order to pass as human, so would he learn forwards, chest over Parker's face, and drink?

This time Parker's yell was a weak cry, one cut short by his gasping, muffled by the folds of the vampire's jacket. Parker swallowed, drew in as large a gulp of air as he could manage and tried again. Someone would be on the street. Someone would hear him and save him—and then he'd wake up, because this couldn't be anything more than a bad hangover dream.

That was it! Everything since Raif had kissed him in the car and Parker had finished off that bottle of Bundy was a dream, and he was going to wake up and discover himself sprawled across his lounge-room floor in a pool of his own vomit, and the agony in his arm was because he'd fallen on it, and vampires didn't exist, and whatever happened after that, the ingloriousness of it, did not matter because anything was better than vampires.

"Done—"

An indecipherable roar drowned out the rest of the vampire's words. The vampire stiffened, dropped Parker's arms and leapt to his feet, stuffing the knife and what looked like a wadded handkerchief or cloth into his jacket pocket. He glanced about and tore off into the park, a shadow flitting among the trees. A second shadow tore after him. Raif?

Did it matter?

Parker lay still a moment, tried to summon up enough breath to risk moving, brought his good arm down to his body. Just thinking about moving his other arm made him pant, so he rolled onto his front, swore, and levered himself up on his good arm while he dragged the left close to his chest. That was more than hard enough, worthy of a rest break, so he slumped down on his side and closed his eyes for a minute. Maybe two. Only once he'd gotten up the nerve to brace the left arm with his right did he sit up and look, but the light wasn't strong enough to get a sense of anything other than a long gash, the dark-stained sleeve of his shirt, and warmth dribbling over the fingers of his good hand.

Right. First-aid training had been a job requirement, although everyone knew that it'd have to be a dire emergency before getting Parker involved. Still, there'd been something about pressure bandages and immobilising the limb—or was that snake bite? Bandaging seemed obvious, but he didn't think tearing his shirt or jeans would be as easy as movies made it seem, and there was no way he was moving his arm to take off his shirt, so he pressed his arm tightly against his chest. Fuck the first-aid part. He'd just get himself to the library and let Alice worry about the rest of it. What else were interfering friends for?

That plan, though, as simple as it was, involved standing up and walking, so Parker drew in a ragged breath and forced himself up onto his knees and then his feet. He wobbled but he stayed standing—someone should award him a fucking medal for that—and then took a cautious step forwards. His knee twinged and buckled.

"Parker!"

This time Raif grabbed him by the shoulders. Parker flinched, pulled away, slipped; Raif caught him before he hit the ground.

"I lost him. Sit down.” He guided Parker back onto the grass, yanked off his coat and shirt, punched buttons on his mobile and wedged it under his chin.

“Hey, Alice. Hi.” Raif pulled Parker's arm out from his body and started wrapping one shirt-sleeve around his wrist. Parker let him. "Can you ring for an ambulance and then come and meet me and Parker in the park with blankets and a first-aid kit? We're right by … yes, I said ambulance, there's been an incident, just do it already? We're where the path forks opposite the entrance by the traffic lights."

He paused to wrap more of the shirt around Parker's arm while Alice said something indistinguishable on the other end of the line.

Parker felt as though he should be saying something about all of this, but he was starting to feel rather woozy and shivery. Easier to let Raif handle it.

"Tell them … tell them Parker's got a long cut down his left forearm and he's losing a lot of blood." Raif dropped his coat over Parker's shoulders and held his hands pressed tight over the shirt-wrapped gash. "Why? I don't know why! We had an argument and he got upset and ran off, so I guess he just went off and did something stupid. Haven't you noticed he's kind of neurotic? Anyway, can we not be talking now?"

Parker's upper teeth slammed into the lower ones with a jaw-rattling thud. No. He didn't. He couldn't have. It was a mistake, or something he'd clear up later. The man who'd kissed him wouldn't have everyone thinking that Parker had gone and attempted suicide to explain away an assaulting vampire—would he?

Fuck it, he would.

Raif pressed at the buttons on the phone with his chin and let it drop to the grass. "You know I had to do that. The paramedics can't know about this. I can't explain away a vampire attacking us just to get your blood, and—"

Parker drew in a shallow, panting breath. His blood? Why?

"You'll be safer in the psych ward. No-one can attack you there."

The fuck? No, he—no. No. What the fuck was Parker going to say to a fucking psychiatrist? Vampires? Right, that one was going to go down well! Never mind—fucking hell, what about his boss? His job? His friends? His parents?

"Parker?” Raif’s voice sounded desperate, pleading. “We have to.” He paused, his lips twisted into a smile that looked only slightly abashed. “Really, you could use the help, and where else will you be safer?”

Raif was going to sit there and lie to the paramedics and Parker’s friends about an injury he fucking caused by moving in and ruining Parker’s life, and then he had the fucking gall to look at Parker and tell him that being branded suicidal, really, was for his own fucking good anyway?

“Raif! Parker!” Alice’s voice cut through the silence. “Where are you?”

With Raif's hands pressing down on Parker's left arm and holding him in place, the heaviness of Raif's leather coat weighing down on Parker's shoulders, and the smell of blood everywhere, Parker couldn’t help but wonder: just what was the difference between the vampire who assaulted him and the vampire who saved him?



Parker was wounded more or less to keep Raif from chasing after the vampire. This is revealed later, but this piece makes more sense knowing that reveal.

This would be the ending of Part 1, I think. Part 2 jumps ahead to a few weeks later.

Also, from here on in I always intended to subvert the Masquerade when it comes to mental health professionals (even before my own experiences with said professionals, but now I have said experiences I believe this more likely to be the case): Parker ends up seeing a psychologist who believes him.

(Why am I talking about this as though I mean to write it?)
The bits of Parker and Raif I read last time did not draw me in as much as this did. If you ever do get around to writing it, I'd read it.
Thanks! Plot helps with the drawing-in, doesn't it? I've done a lot of work on conflict and tension (as a plot device, not inter-characterisation conflict which looks on the page like something's happening but actually disguises its absence - I'm very good at that) and at times I think it's starting to show. My teacher actually had a lot of problems with this assignment in that people didn't turn in pieces with enough plot-related conflict, and he wrote us all an essay about how we rock as diplomats and fail as creatives, so I don't think it's easy to pull off.

(Those moments when I get to see that those thousands of dollars on my diploma have had an effect are pretty cool.)